This afternoon England’s autumn international rugby season ended in an ultimately disappointing 30-22 defeat to New Zealand. Nevertheless, the nature of the defeat ensures that the upward trajectory of the nation’s rugby team remains, just about, intact.
Two wins from three games was the minimum required for expectant fans. Although the first half against Australia and the second half against Argentina represented distinctly underwhelming performances, the team showed admirable resolve to claw back a 17-3 deficit, just as the All Blacks were threatening to wreak havoc.
The Autumn Internationals have represented a false dawn for England fans before though. On the day that Dylan Hartley won his 50th cap, today was a reminder of the squad’s growing levels of experience. However, if England are to become the finished article of a ‘champion team’, as coach Andy Farrell has predicted, it is crucial the side produce consistent 80-minute performances throughout next year’s Six Nations tournament.